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James I
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Francis Xavier
Co_Founder of the Jesuit Order and Missionary to Japan
Mission to Japan


William Adams
Arrives in Japoan

Francis Xavier
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Sukashi Tsuba

Sukashi Tsuba

Hosokawa Tadaoki (Sansai) (1564 - 1646)

The life and times of Hosokawa Sansai.

Hosokawa Tadaoki (Sansai) (1564 - 1646) in later life

The cultural heritage of the Hosokawa family in Japan:


Hosokawa Katsumoto (1430-73), a military commander of the Muromachi Period (1336-1573) left 120 acres of his estate to become a Zen Buddhist temple. Ryoan-ji one of Japans most visited locations and favorite temples was built on this bequest of the Hosokawa family.


Kotoin no Daitoku-ji

Built by Hosokawa Sansai and Sen no Rikyu.Tadaoki's and Gracia's (Tama) graves are at the Kotoin Temple. Built in part in (1601) by Hosokawa Tadaoki (Sansai) as a branch of Daitoku-ji Temple as a tribute and memorial to his friendship with Rikyu. The temples Shoin was once part of Rikyu's residence and the famous tea house located here, known as Shoko-ken was designed and built by Tadaoki. The stone lantern in the Garden behind the Tea House was a gift from Sen No Rikyu to Tadaoki. This architectural complex and it's landscaping is the best example of their shared sensibilities and artistic esthetics that exists in Japan.The gardens associated with this complex are particularly beautiful in the fall season when the maple trees are in full color.


Suizenji-Jojuen is a spacious, Japanese style landscape garden in Kumamoto, formerly Higo Province on the Island of Kyushu. It was built by the Hosokawa family following the installation of the Hosokawa to administer Higo province in 1632 and was completed over an eighty year period. Suizenji Garden was originally a temple grounds built by Tadatoshi Hosokawa, (1586-1641) (Tadaoki's Son) the first generation of the Hosokawa Family who ruled Higo from Kumamoto, and is considered to be one of the six most beautiful gardens in Japan. The grounds are a miniature reproduction of the "53 Stations of the Tokaido Road" and reproduces in miniature both Lake Biwa and Mount Fuji. The park may be the first of the worlds true theme parks as the Stations of the Tokaido has been used extensively as a popular theme in Japanese art.

The garden also includes the Kokin Denju-no-Ma a teahouse designed and built by Hosokawa Yusai (1534-1610,Tadaoki's father) as a study and place for the ceremonial drinking of tea for Prince Katsura Tomohito(1579 - 1629). This building was imported from its original location in Kyoto in 1912 and now sits on the pond of Suizen-ji. The views from the teahouse are some of the best perspectives of the garden's landscaping.

Who was HosokawaTadaoki ( Sansai) (1564 - 1646)?

The Hosokawa daiymo was center stage in the drama surrounding the shifts of power and influence during the Azuchi Momoyama and Sengoku periods of Japanese history.

Tadoaki was the son of Nagaoka Fujitaka (Hosokawa Fujitaka, Yusai), (1534-1610), the son of shogun Ashikaga Yoshiharu (1511-1550) the 12th shogun of the Ashikaga shogunate by a concubine and the adopted son of Hosokawa Mototsune. (1482-1554). Fujitaka was one of the foremost practitioners of Waka and advised the Imperial house on matters of history, literature and poetry and was a practioner of the tea ceremony. Source: Papano

Hosokawa Tadaoki (Sansai) proved to be one of the great players in the group of men brought together by Oda Nobunaga during his attempt to unify Japan.

The personal Armor of Hosokawa Tadaoki
designed and built for his own use. This is the set of armor that Tadaoki wore at Sekigahara and includes design considerations to withstand impacts from matchlock weapons.

Higo Tsuba with water and Cherry blossom design which was made for Hosokawa Sansai.
Compare the pattern to the Donsu Oribe fabric pattern used as the background for this web page.

Tadaoki went into battle during his first military campaign with his father in the service of Oda Nobunaga at the age of 15, the Iga Mountain Campaign (1579) was most likely to have been his first military engagement. For their services Fujitaka and Tadaoki were awarded Tango province (110 thousand Koku) by Oda Nobunaga in 1580. They ruled Tango Province from Tanabe Castle in Maizuru, an important port city, on the western coast of Japan, servicing Kyoto at the time.

Oda Nobunaga also arranged the marriage of Tadaoki to Akechi Tama, (Hosokawa Gracia) Akechi Mitsuhide's daughter whom he married at the age of eighteen in 1580. Akechi Mitsuhide ruled Tamba Province which was geographically adjacent to Tango Province.

Within two years of this marriage Akechi Mitsuhide rebelled against Oda Nobunaga assassinating him while he was conducting a tea ceremony at Honno Temple in Kyoto. Akechi turned to Fujitaka and Tadaoki for support in his rebellion however they both sided with Toyotomi Hideyoshi against Akechi and carefully isolated Tama from the repercussions of her fathers misconduct. Tama's life was saved because of her association with Tadaoki who kept Tama in excile while the politics of the situation were sorted out. Because the Hosokawa had sided with the Toyotomi in the matter Hideyoshi recommended reconciliation to Tama and that Tadaoki bring her back into his family from exile while the rest of the Akechi clan was systematically eliminated.

Tadaoki's uncanny abilities to make appropriate political decisions were demonstrated throughout the transitions of power from, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokogawa Ieyasu during the unification of Japan. When others were destroyed and their daimyo's eliminated from having a future Tadaoki consistently ended up on the winning team by being a valued militiary leader and through his ability to make astute political decisions.

Tadaoki also became one of Hideyoshi's leading military commanders and played essential roles in the Komaki Campaign (1583) and the Odawara Campaign (1590).During which time his association and friendship with Tokogawa Ieyasu became stronger.Tadaoki was present on the side of the Toyotomi campaigns to conquer Shikoku and Kyushu. Sen No Rikyu was often in the company of Toyotomi Hideyoshi during these military compaigns to provide services in the tea ceremony.

Tadaoki Hosokawa further proved his value by being directly invovled in helping Toyotomi Hideyoshi acquire additional social status through helping him along with Sen No Rikyu to create the famous Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony (1587). Hideyoshi being from a humble backround used culture as a tool in the legitimization of his rule. Tadaoki was what Toyotomi was not and that was the product of true gentry.

Tadaoki commanded 3,500 troops in the Ninth Division during the first invasion of Korea in 1592 and was present at the First Siege of Jinju October 4-10, 1592. Following the Korean campaign Tadaoki brought Korean potters back to Japan and established pottery works at Agano and sponsored the construction of their kilns and directly influenced the esthetics of the pottery they produced.

After Hideyoshi died (1598) the Hosokawa were faced with the decision of who to side with in the fractious struggle for power between Ishida Mitsunari and Tokogawa Ieyasu. Tadaoki and Ieyasu had become friends during their service to Hideyoshi to the extent that Ieyasu had helped Tadaoki pay a personal debt to Toyotomi Hidetsugu. Tama (Gracia) was again caught up in the politics of the transition of power and would play a central role in the Hosokawa's decision to side with the Tokugawa. She was at the Hosokawa residence at Osaka castle when Ishida Mitsunari attempted to take her captive to be used as a political weapon to influence the Hosakawa's decision of who to side with in the upcoming conflict. Tama refused to be taken captive and had one of her servants kill her. This act was both an act of defiance toward Ishida Mitsunari and loyalty to Tadaoki which solidified the decision of the Hosokawa to side with Tokogawa Ieyasu and join his forces at the battle of Sekigahara. As troops began to assemble and move to the final confrontation Fujitaka delayed the advance of troops from the west at the siege of Tanabe Castle, his main residence in Tango while Tadaoki lead 5,000 of his troops at the center of Ieyasu's lines at Sekigahara.

For his service at Sekigahara and loyalty to the Tokugawa Tadoaki was awarded the fief of Buzen in northern Kyushu, a fief worth 370 thousand koku.

Kokura Castle, Buzen Prefecture built By Tadaoki in 1603

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi had conquered Kyushu in 1587, he appointed Narimasa Sasa as head of Higo province. However, after Sasa fell from power following a local uprising, Kato Kiyomasa ruled the northern part of the prefecture, while Konishi Yukinaga held authority in the south. Both men had played a central role in Toyotomi's Korean campaign. After the fall of Konishi in 1600, at the battle of Sekigahara, Kato Kiyomasa, unified Higo Province and built Kumamoto Castle. The Hosokawa continued to support the rize in power of the Tokugawa and participated in the Osaka campaigns against the western powers in of 1614-15. Kato Kiyomasa was eventually replaced in Kumamoto by the Hosokawa who entered Higo in 1632, and ruled the 540 thousand koku province of Higo until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

The patriarchs of the Hosokawa clan had reputations as cultured men as well as being skilled military commanders. Their participation in Chanoyu played an essential and central role in their political successes.

Tadaoki devoted a large part of his energies to encouraging culture, such as the Higo style tea ceremony, he wrote several books on the tea cermony including HOSOKAWA CHANOYU NO SHO, HOSAKAWA SANSAI CHASHO , and SANSAI CHANOYU KOUGI . His style and emphasis were antecedents to Sen No Rikyu's and Furuta Oribe's teachings and were adapted by his personal biases. Hosokawa's emphasis on tea seemed to be to introduce and entertain his piers in the warrior class. His services as an instructor in the tea cermony were in great demand by the daimyo who rose in power along with the Tokugawa.

Tadaoki's reputation as a warrior should never be underestimated. This idea is supported by a historic association he had with Musashi Miyamoto. According to the popular story of the incedent, which has been taken on almost mythical proportions in Japanese pop culture, in 1612 while Tadaoki ruled Buzen from his residence at Kokura castle the great swordsman Musashi Miyamoto was required to ask Tadaoki's permission before fighting his most famous of duals against Sasaki Kojiro in the legendary duel of Ganryujima. Sasaki Kojiro, a skilled swordsman, was an instructor in kendojitsu for Hosokawa Tadaoki at the time. Musashi won the duel killing Kojiro and Tadaoki lost his best instructor in sword play. The tiny Ganryu Island is located off of Buzen in the channel between Honshu and Kyushu (near present day Kitakyushu).

Contemporary Sculpture commemorating the duel of Ganryujima between Musashi Miyamoto and Sasaki Kojiro. Hosokawa Sansai Governed Buzen prefecture at the time this dual took place and had to give Musahi permission to fight the duel.

Musashi Miyamoto came to Kumamoto Castle in 1640 on the invitation Hosokawa Tadatoshi and spent his final years in Kumamoto painting and teaching before retiring to seclusion to write Grin-no sho (The Book of Five Elements). It is easy to speculate that many of Musashi's most famous paintings were created while he was in residence with the Hosokawa at Kumamoto, some of which remain in the Hosokawa family collection to this day.

Sansai lived to the old age of 82, surviving his son Tadatoshi by several years. The most remakable part of Tadaoki's personal history is how he guided the Hosokawa family through this volatile time in Japan's history and prospered during the politically turbulent years that occurred during the unification of Japan.

Tadaoki was the exemplar of appropriateness carefully aiming his personal choices and political actions accordingly.

Fujitaka is credited with having participated in 54 miliary campaigns during his lifetime. Tadaoki would have had similar military record. Tadaoki's hands on involvement with the administration of the family business and assets lasted from 1580 to the time of his death in 1645. The 65 years of Tadaoki's active invovlment in Japanese history is unmatched for the length of time and the importance of its impact on the Japanese culture. It is a record of remarkable duration equaled in history only by Rameses the Great for the length of its period.

Hosokawa Sansai was one of the The Seven Great Tea Masters who were students of
Sen No Rikyu (1522-1591):

A famous quote about tea from Hosokawa Tadaoki:

" I Lord Tadaoki detest seeing the lid of the kettle removed before the water begins to boil. "

The Hosokawa Oo-Ido
Sen No Rikyu's seven students and tea masters:

Hosokawa Sansai (1564 - 1645)
Gamo Iujisato(1556-1595)
Takayama Ukon(1531-1596)
Futura Oribe(1544-1615)
Sibayama Kenmotsu
Seta Kamon
Makimura Hyoubu

Tadaoki's cultural and artistic accomplishments were every bit as impressive as his status as a military leader. Tadaoki functioned as a true patron of the arts seeking out talent and encouraging growth through his direct patronage.

Because of his preeminence as a military leader his focus was in part to bring the culture associated with Chano-yu to the warrior classes, while demonstrating the epitome of good taste, etiquette, and judgment.

Tadaoki prided himself in being hands on and created some his own art as well, see below.

Saki decanter hand crafted by Hosokawa Sansai

Tadaoki was an exemplar of good taste. His esthetic choices were established in Japan's classical traditions due to his father's close association with the Ashikaga and modified by his personal involvement with Sen No Rikyu his primary mentor in Chanoyu.

Because of the popularity of the tea ceremony and its usefulness in the political climate of the time his high level of involvement brought him personal favor with other important players of the time including, Oda Yuraku (1547-1621), Imai Sokyu (1520-1593),and Toyotomi Hidetsugu (1568 -1595)

Oda Yuraku, Gamo Ujisato and Takayama Ukon were the prominent Christians within the inner circle of tea masters learning from Sen No Rikyu

When Sen No Rikyu lost favor with Toyotomi Hideyoshi it was Tadaoki who stood up for his mentor and when it was inevitable that Rikyu must commit sepuku it was Tadaoki who sent his own retainer to assist him.

When Oribe lost favor with Tokugawa Ieyasu again it was Tadaoki, and Hon'ami Koetsu who remained his friend and supported him through the ordeal.

Hon'ami Koetsu (1558-1637) whose life expressed so much of the value of the individual was also a disciple of Oribe. His invovlment with the Tea Ceremony lead him to rendering great service in instructing pottery making such as Takatori ware, Tamba ware, and Shigaraki ware.

Kobori Enshu (1579-1647) was another disciple of Oribe. Lord Kobori Enshu Masakazu, was the feudal lord of Tohtoumi(now Shizuoka Prefecture) in the early Edo Era. He is also renowed as one of the greatest tea masters to inherit the tradition of Japanese Sado. Tokogawa Ieyasu was his primary patron.

Shoko-ken tea house at Kotoin Temple built by Tadaoki

The near universal embracing of the tea ceremony by the new samurai class can be seen at this time in the practice of Oda Nobunaga, who unified Japan starting in the 1570's. He often rewarded his successful generals with tea utensils which had been used by the daimyo's that were displaced by his military conquests. Moreover, his successor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, helped solidified his power by holding three grand tea ceremonies within six months in 1582-3.

The first of the Wabi potters, Chojiro, was under the patronage of Sen No Rikyu, Tadaoki's mentor and great tea master of the late 16th century, who found in the tea utensil created for him by Chojiro, the epitome of refined simplicity which lies at the heart of every element of the Zen Buddhist tea ceremony. With the death of Chojiro in 1592, his son Jokei continued the raku tradition. It was this son who received, from the warlord Hideyoshi, the raku seal. The most renowned raku potters have been: Donyu (1574-1656) third generation of the raku family: Honami Koetsu (1557-1637) one of Japan's greatest artist craftsmen and Ogata Kenzan (1663-1743).

The Yatsushiro kilns were goyogama or Daimyo sponsored kilns started by Agano Kizo in the 17th century. Agano Kizo studied pottery in Korea, and by the 19th century there were three recognized houses of official potters descended from him.

The Hosokawa were prominent patrons of the Yatsushiro Kilns from the time they occupied Higo province until the end of the Edo Period.

Recommended Reading


To assist putting Tadaoki into his historical context

See the following pages:

The life and times of St. Francis Xavier, (1512- 1552)
Page: 1

Xavier meets Otomo Sorin the King of Bungo, (1550)
Page: 2

William Adams arrives in Japan, (1600 )
Page: 3

The Epic Journey of Hasekura Tsunenaga, (1613-1620)
Page: 4

James I of England (1603-1625)
and his personal correspondence with Tokugawa Ieyasu

Page: 5

Timeline of European Events during the life of Hosokawa Tadaoki

Page 6


This Page was co-authored by Chester Comstock in co-operation with Kanayama, For additional information on Kanayama and his collection of Japanese Antiquities from the 16th and 17th Centuries see:

Kanayama Discusses Sukashi Tsuba

Chester Comstock is the Publisher and Editor of and the founder and owner of:

Comstock Sculpture Studio.

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